This is the last of a series of posts about the symbolism of snow and the symbolism of the rose in carols for Advent and Christmas, based largely on the carol Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming. The others were titled "Snow and Advent" and appear in the Advent category of this blog. This one is in the Christmas category.
In the version of Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming given in an earlier post, the next to the last verse says, "True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us, And lightens every load." A different version of the same carol appears among the carols for Morning Prayer for December 18 to 24 in the 4-volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. It ends, "She bore for men a savior At midnight calm and still."
In both versions of the carol, there is a sense of the peace and calm that comes from being saved from sin and death by the Saviour who is born at Christmas. It reflects the words of the angels, spoken to the shepherds (Luke 2:13), "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
In many ways, that is what the entire carol is about, and what Christmas is about. The cold, the darkness, and the storms of winter reflect original sin. The light that is the life of men (John 1:4) coming into the world, and the beauty of a rose as symbolic of the newborn Saviour, reflect salvation from sin. The harshness of winter brings to mind the struggle with sin and death that is part and parcel of human life. The rose represents Christ born into the world to bring the life of salvation, conquering sin and death.
Sandro Magister recently had a post about Pope Benedict's recent references to original sin. Titled "And it was night. The real story of original sin", Magister's December 11 article spoke of Pope Benedict's several recent references to original sin. Magister quoted the entirety of the Pope's catechesis from his weekly general audience on December 10, the one that focused most particular on that topic. In it, the Pope taught from the writings of St. Paul, saying of life and of the darkness of evil: "This is the happy proclamation of faith: there is only one good source, the Creator. And because of this, to live is good, it is a good thing to be a man, a woman, life is good. Then a mystery of darkness, of night follows. Evil does not come from the source of being itself, it is not equally original. Evil comes from a created liberty, from an abused liberty." Of the light that is Christ, he went on, "With his light, God is stronger and, because of this, evil can be overcome. Therefore, the creature, man, is curable; but if evil comes only from a subordinate source, it remains true that man is curable. And the Book of Wisdom says: "the creatures of the world are wholesome" (1:14)." And man is "cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history."
The peace on earth proclaimed by the angels is the effect of that cure, of that conquering of sin and death by the Saviour born into the world at Christmas. The silence of the "Silent Night" sung in a different carol reflects the silence of that peace.
Snow brings a calm and peacefulness to the night. When a winter storm has passed, the snow falling gently on a white blanket covering the ground composes a Christmas card scene, gently covering the roofs of churches and homes, with smoke of a pleasant fire rising from each chimney, as people greet each other on their way with "Merry Christmas!". The snow of later months is never quite as welcome as a Christmas snow, when people do not have anywhere to go except perhaps to Mass and then to the warmth of home. It is the stillness of a peaceful Christmas snow that evokes thoughts of the peace of salvation, a cure from sin and death, brought by the birth of a baby at Christmas, lightening every load.